The Latin League and the Enemies of Latium

Historical Sources For Events of the Period 500 - 280 B. C.
This period is not well documented by either contemporary historical writing or literature. The only sources we have are the law code of the Twelve Tables, individual supplementary legal edicts, priestly writings, and the records made by the censors of the names and property of Rome's citizens. Later, more formal historical accounts were recorded by Polybius and Dionysius of Halicarnassus.

To fill the gap of recorded history, folklore was employed if the tales were suitably heroic for an upwardly mobile Roman society's image in comparison to the epic heroic history of the Greeks many Romans so strongly wished to emulate. Livy's Early History of Rome and Virgil's Aeneid were products of this approach.

From the early Sixth Century BC on, the small city - states of Latium shared many interests in common, especially in matters of their religious worship and their need for mutual protection against outside enemies. Oroginating with celebrations of the Festival of Jupiter on the Alban Mount, the latin League evolved to include treaties of mutual military aid as well as religious ties. The town of Alba Longa was an early leader of the latin League, which also included Lavinium and Praeneste. City - states of the Latin league also shared commercial treaties and conferred certain rights on each others' citizens. These included the rights of commercium, connubium, and migratio. The right commercium of provided that citizens of one town could conduct business and own property in antother Latin town. The right of migratio allowed the citizens of one town to settle in another while thet of connubium respected marriages between citizens of two different Latin towns. These rights were much later to become extremely important in the treaties of alliance Rome made with her Latin neighbors after the Latin League was dissolved in the Fourth Century BC.

After the power of the Etruscans over Rome and the other towns in Latium was broken, these towns were free to vie against each other for influence and control in the regions of Latium. The two centuries following the expulsion of the Tarquins were years of struggle between Rome and the other Latin towns in which the balance of power shifted several times between the most influential towns.

Soon after Rome rid herself of the yoke of Etruscan rule, her Latin neighbors began to cause her trouble. The ancient town of lavinium forsook allegiance to Rome and attempted to assume the leadership of the Latin League. In 496 B. C., the Latin towns of the district of Tusculum fought and lost a war against Rome at Lake Regellius. The battle was won in large part because of the superiority of Roman cavalry tactics. From their defeated enemies, the Romans inherited the worship of Castor and Pollux, the Heavenly Twins. These deities became the ritual protectors of Rome and the patron deities of the cavalry forces and later, the Equestrian classes. The twin figures of Castor and Pollux mounted on horseback, each holding a spear were a popular theme on the reverses of early denarii struck under the Roman republic.

During the century following the battle of Lake Regillus, the Romans formed close ties of alliance with some of the Latin tribes and began the process of absorption and incorporation of these peoples into a greater Roman people and culture. The Romans and others in Latium were also under constant attack by enemies from the east, the Volsci and Aequi. These tribes occupied hill country and coveted the fertile fields and access to the sea enjoyed by Latium. The Volsci were finally neutralized by the capture of their port of Antium by the Romans in 377 B. C. Though the Volsci recaptured the port and held it for a few more years, they were no longer a serious threat and were eventually absorbed by the Romans.

The Sabines were another of Rome's early enemies. These Oscan speaking people lived in hilltop towns northeast of Rome. Warfare with the Sabines continued throughout the Fifth Century B. C. despite a major Roman victory over the Sabines in 449 B. C. The Sabines were eventually absorbed into the growing Roman people. In later years, Roman traditions ascribed such noble virtues as courage in battle, morality, and pietas.

One Sabine tribe became so eager to ally themselves with Rome that they sought and gained permission to move their entire populace onto Roman territory and become Romans. This took place even while open hostilities with the rest of the Sabine tribes continued. These were the people of Attus Clausus, who founded one the Claudian Gens, one of Rome's earliest and most important families.

The dynamic shifting relationships between Rome and the other Latin towns from enemies through rivals, and allies brought about some political and economic relationships that laid the foundations for Roman citizenship and world government in the future centuries. Rome and other Latin towns recognized the rights of each other's citizens. These included free travel and commercial interaction. Later, the formal Latin rights of connubium, commercium, and migratio were codified into law. These translated roughly as the rights of intermarriage, free trade, and freedom of travel amongst the towns of Latium and eventually greater Italy. In a world which heretofore had seen individual, rival city - states taking a hostile posture towards one another, these were very advanced social concepts indeed.

Sinnigen and Boak pp. 45 - 47
Grant pp. 43 - 46
Atlas of the Roman World pp. 18 - 24. also see map of regions, p. 19 and map of Etruscan cities, p. 21


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