We recap the confusing details of the 430s BCE. Be careful – there’s a lot of dictators about!
This is a short, sharp, scripted overview of all the big events that defined the 430s BCE. If you’re inspired to delve into more details, all the episodes from this decade can be found in our Foundation of Rome series starting with Episode 127: The Assassination of Spurius Maelius.
The Partial Recap – 430s 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.
Our music was composed by the incomparable Bettina Joy de Guzman.
Dr Rad 0:16
Welcome to The Partial Historians,
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we explore all the details of ancient Rome.
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Everything from the political scandals, the love affairs, the battles waged and when citizens turn against each other. I’m Dr. Rad
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and I’m Dr. G. We consider Rome as the Romans saw it by reading different authors from the ancient past and comparing their stories.
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Join us as we trace the journey of Rome from the founding of the city.
Welcome to the Partial Recap for the 430s BCE.
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I’m Dr. G.
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And I’m Dr. Rad
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And this is our highlights addition of the 430s in Rome will take you through from 439 to 430. In an epitome of our normal episodes
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Perfect for those mornings when you don’t want some lengthy rhetoric with your coffee. But Please be warned. The Roman world is a violent one
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Get ready for a re-cappuccino.
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439 BCE. In 439 BCE, the consuls were Agrippa Menenius Lanatus and Titus Quinctius Capitolinus Barbatus, Rome was still having issues with their green supply and 439 BCE. Perhaps it would be more accurate to say that they were having issues with the man who had tried to solve the green crisis and to be honest, the dates are blurry here. This is more 439 and 438. An equestrian named Spurius Maelius had used his private fortune to secure desperately needed corn, something that the officially appointed prefect of corn supply Lucius Minucius had failed to do. Spurius Maelius had allegedly been using his success with the grain to curry favour and after carefully building support amongst the plebs instal himself as monarch. Funnily enough Minucius was the one to uncover this dastardly plot. Jealous much? This may somehow connect to another version of events we have in which the people overthrew Minucius and put Maelius in his place. In this time of crisis, the Romans turned to Cincinnatus, that old war horse or did they? Officially Cincinnatus was made dictator and chose Gaius Servilius Ahala, whose name means Gaius Servilius ‘Armpit’, as the master of the horse, depending who you believe Ahala was either just a random elite man who was given a senatorial approval to kill Maelius, or he was sent by Cincinnatus to arrest the scheming Spurius. When Spurius decided not to go quietly, and when he screamed for help from the nearby plebs, Ahala decided to murder him on the spot. Naturally. Ahala and a band of young patricians reported the crime to Cincinnatus, who was thoroughly pleased that Maelius was dead. The populace were less thrilled and Cincinnatus summoned an assembly to explain exactly how Maelius’ murder went down. With Rome safe again, Maelius’ house was torn down. Too much evil plotting had gone down in there to leave it standing. It became a memorial named the Aquaemaelium to commemorate whatever he was supposedly doing. The rest of his property was donated to the public treasury. Again, according which account you believe some other traitors flesh rabbits may have found their heads detached for their bodies and displayed in the Forum. In the aftermath of the Spurius Maelius debacle, Lucius Minucius was given an ox and a gilded statue outside the Porta Trigamenia, he may also have been made a plebeian and an 11th tribune of the plebs just to keep an eye on them after this attempted coup business, but even Livy is unsure about this one. The tribunes certainly weren’t pleased that Minucius was being honoured, so they pushed to have military tribunes with consular power and 438 BCE. Come on pleb power! Ahala did not fare as well as Minucius going into “self imposed exile”. Wink. Looking to delve deeper into the details of 439 BCE, check out our Episode 127 The Assassination of Spurius Maelius.
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438 BCE in 438 BCE, the military tribunes with consular power were Mamercus Aemilius, Lucius Quinctius Cincinnatus and Lucius Julius Iullus. If the idea to have military tributes with consular power is to allow non elite Romans into the politics then we can call this year a fail. These guys are all patricians. It’s a tough time in Rome because the Roman colony of Fidenae decided to revolt and side with the Etruscan city of Veii, led by King Lars Tolumnius: disaster! To make matters worse, the Fidenates ended up murdering the ambassadors that the Romans sent to sort out this mess. Lars Tolumnius may have had something to do with this, but it is all very murky. The four slain ambassadors received statues which were erected at the public expense in Rome, lest we forget. Me thinks the Romans have vengeance on their mind. Jump into Episode 128 Mopping up Maelius, to catch all the details.
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437 BC in 437 BCE, the consuls were Marcus Geganius Macerinus and Lucius Sergius Fidenas. Rome was in crisis mode, so no one was causing issues at home, but a dictator was clearly needed. And Mamercus Aemilius was chosen for the job. Lucius Quictius Cincinnatus, son of the famous Cincinnatus, was selected as master of the horse. During the emotionally charged battle that followed, a really ridiculously good looking tribune from the Roman cavalry named Aulua Cornelius Cossus distinguished himself. Determined to make his family name proud, Cossus decided to take down the king of Veii. Tolumnius was wreaking havoc for the Romans, but not once Cossus was finished with him. Cossus did not just kill Tolumnius, he decapitated him. The Etruscans lost their nerve after the death of their King and were defeated. Cossus became known as the first man since King Romulus to defeat an enemy leader in single combat, and he dedicated his spoils to Jupiter Feretrius. The senate and the people agreed: all of this glory added up to a triumph for our dictator.
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436 BCE, in 436 BCE, the consuls were Lucius Papirius Crassus and Marcus Cornelius Maluginensis – what a mouthfull! The year began with some raids into enemy territory. We’re in familiar crowds now with the Romans and the Romans took some booty, both human and animal from Veii and the Faliscans, those bastards. The enemy was presumably busy licking their wounds, and so there was no actual battle to be had. At least no battles before Romans were struck down by a pestilence. Not to be stopped by disease, Spurius Maelius – a relative of our grain loving murder victim – decided to use his power as tribune of the plebs to prosecute Lucius Minucius and to confiscate the property of Servilius Ahala. Crazily, the people seem to have been quite indifferent to his efforts. Perhaps it was the worsening pestilence…
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435 BCE. In 435 BCE the consuls were Gaius Iulius and Lucius Verginius. After all that pesky illness, the patricians and plebeians were ready for a peaceful year, but the people of Fidenae had other ideas. Fidenae and Veii teamed up to create terror for the Romans with their pillaging, reaching the very gates of Rome. You know what this means? It’s time for a dictator. Quintus Servilius Priscus was made dictator with Postumius Aebutius Helva as master of the horse. Any male who could fight was called up and a battle ensued near Nomentum. The enemy retreated into the city of Fidenae, which was a hard nut to crack. But Servilius was no ordinary military strategist. Using clever diversionary tactics, he managed to seize control of the city. Back in Rome, the censors approved a new public building fittingly called the Villa Publica. This would be used to take the census. Just as exciting as siege warfare, clearly censors know how to party.
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Build a house for the very same.
434 BCE. Now things get pretty confusing around 434. The first problem, there seems to have been two sets of consuls. The consuls are variously listed as Gaius Julius Iullus, and Lucius Verginius Tricostus or Marcus Manlius Capitolinus and Quintus Sulpicius Camerinus Praetextatus. So imagine that so you know, so much Latin, no overlap of names. And to make matters even worse, there were also three military tributes with consular power listed for this year as well. Servius Cornelius Cossus, Marcus Manlius Capitolinus and Quintus Sulpicius Camerinus Praetextatus. And yes, you’re definitely starting to hear some overlapping names. This year was simply lousy with magistrates. The sources themselves seem quite confused over who was running the place. But whoever was in charge, they soon found themselves replaced by dictator Mamercus Aemilius and his master of the horse. Oulus – Aulus, I should say Postumius Tubertus. Mamercus was called in because it seemed like war might break out with Veii and some of their allies, but it all fizzled quite quickly. Mamercus therefore decided that he was going to change some things at home, he focused his attention on the censorship. These guys were too powerful. A law was proposed that would limit the censorship to a year and a half, that people were giddy with delight. But the censors now saw Mamercus as public enemy number one. They kicked him out of his tribe, and drastically increased his tax bill. Ouch.
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Hell know no fury like a censor scorned.
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What is this tax? It’s just for you, my friend. Lucky for the censors, Mamercus was content to take this one on the chin, or they may have found some of his devoted fans waiting for them in the forum with baseball bats and switch blades.
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433 BCE. In 433 BCE, the military tributes with consular power where Marcus Fabius Vibulanus, Marcus Folius Flaccinator, and Lucius Sergius Fidenas. The tribunes of the plebeians decided that this was a good year to start some trouble. They tried to block the consular elections and the rumours were apparently close to having to move to an interregnum. A compromise was reached and military tribunes with consular power were elected instead. But none of the men chosen were plebeians. The best laid plans. More political shenanigans may have ensued, but a serious epidemic struck the city so serious that a temple was given to Apollo on behalf of the people’s health. But many people died and the Romans were worried that widespread death would lead to famine, which would lead to more death. So they started searching high and low for grain which they could stockpile.
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432 BCE, and we’re back with some military tribunes with consular power, Lucius Pinarius Mamercinus, Lucius Furius Medullinus and Spurius Postumius Albus Regillensis. The disease that had affected the population in the previous year started to ease up and the Romans did not have to add famine to their list of worries as they were so damn organised. All of that stockpiled grain coming in handy. There were murmurings of war between Etruscans, the Volscians and Aequians and Rome, but it was decided to postpone any conflict for a year. The tribune of the plebs started strategizing about how they could get a plebeian elected as military tribune with consular power. It was crazy that only patricians had been elected so far. Somehow this led to a law being proposed by the tribunes that political candidates were not allowed to whiten their toga. In other words, no advertising the fact that you were running for office with your very shiny very white toga candida. To avoid dirty plebeians winning any more power, the patricians made sure that consuls were on the cards for the following year.
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431 BCE. In 431 BCE the consuls were Titus Quinctius Poenas Cincinnatus, and Gaius or Gnaeus Iulius Mento, and they apparently hated each other. The consuls really needed a strong army this year, so a levy was held under a lex sacrata, which meant that anyone who offended against this law was sacer to the gods. The Aequians and the Volscians set up their camps at Mount Algidus and seem to have strong armies in the field. The Romans were spooked or defeated in battle and didn’t want to talk about it, and the Senate decided to appoint a dictator. After all, so many young Romans had perished in the plague and the consuls were not a great team. However, the consuls did agree that a dictator was a terrible idea. In desperation Quintus Servilius Priscus, an elite Roman, appealed to the tribune of the plebs, and ask them to force the consuls to name a dictator. The consuls were livid. But finally it was decided by lot that Titus Quinctius should choose the dictator. Quinctius selected his father-in-law Aulus Postumius Tubertus, aka the “face of stone”. Lucius Julius was named master of the horse. A levy was declared and the Romans were ordered to focus all of their attention on the war effort. Postumius was just what the campaign needed. With his team and fellow elites, they managed to defeat both the Aequians and the Volscians. The only downer was the possible execution of Aulus Postumius’ son on his father’s orders. The “face of stone” strikes again! But nobody wants to believe this story. As a parting blow to his colleague, Gnaeus Julius dedicated the Temple of Apollo without consulting his colleague Quinctius. How rude.
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430 BCE. In this year the consuls were Lucius Papirius Crassus and Lucius Julius Iullus. A new law was introduced this year called The Papira Julia, which changed the valuation of fines by changing how they decided to count cattle. Those Romans will the excitement never end when it comes to their lawmaking! After their disastrous defeat in the previous year, the Aequians – surprise, surprise – managed to secure an eight year truce with Rome. Ahh, the bliss of peace. The Volscians on the other hand, were distracted by their own internal dispute, which made for an unusually peaceful end to the decade.
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And that was the 430s in ancient Rome. Or, was it?
Dr G 21:29
Wow, that is the big question. Remember, this has just been a highlights reel of the ancient sources and the decade that was so if you want to delve into the complexities of the different evidence from this period, check out our narrative episodes, you’d want to be jumping in at Episode 127 The Assassination of Spurius Maelius to join us for a deep dive into the decade that was the 430s BCE.
Dr Rad 22:00
Thank you for listening to this episode of The Partial Historians, we’d like to send an extra special thank you to all of our supporters, especially our Patreon and our Kofi donators. Thank you so much for helping keep the show going. Until next time, we are yours in ancient Rome.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai