A History of Rome to the Battle of Actium

By Evelyn Shirley Shuckburgh | Go to book overview

of various members of the Fabian gens are prominent. The Fasti for seven years in succession ( 485-479) show a Fabius as one of the consuls; and the family seems to have regarded the Veientine war as its special province. Hence the famous story of the fall of the 306 members of the gens.

The Fabii.

Kaeso Fabius Vibulanus was consul for the third time in 479. lie came, it is said, into the Senate-House and proposed that, instead of sending the usual army against the Veientines, he, at the head of his gens, should undertake the Veientine war. The offer was gladly accepted, and amidst the praises and prayers of the people Kaeso, in full military array, led his clansmen out of Rome by the Porta Carmentalis, the right arch of which was ever afterwards regarded as ill-omened for the commencement of a journey. Livy and Ovid seem to confine the numbers who thus sallied forth to the 306 members of the Fabian gens, but other versions of the tale represent them as being accompanied by clients and dependents, amounting in all to about 4000. It is indeed unlikely that men of their rank and wide connexions would fail to be followed by clients and slaves. Their object was to occupy some permanent post in the Veientine lands, from which to prevent inroads upon the Roman territory, and to watch for opportunities of inflicting injury upon Veii.

Kaeso Fabius Vibulanus.

The greatness and magnificence of the town of Veii are attested by ancient writers, and have been confirmed by the few scattered remains on the site, which, as far as they go, indicate a town at least as large as Athens. It stood about twelve miles from Rome in the fork of two streams, which, uniting on the south-east of the town, form the river called Cremera, the modern La Vulca. When the Fabii reached the valley of the Cremera they pitched their camp on a steep hill, and fortified it by a double trench and many towers. This post they held through the winter, repelling all attacks of the Veientines, and repeatedly plundering their territory. Next year the Veientine army was defeated by the consul L. Aemilius at a place on what was afterwards the Flaminian road, called ad Rubra Saxa, and were compelled to sue for peace. For some reason, of which we are not informed, the people of Veii did not accept the terms offered by the Romans, and resolved to try once more to dislodge the Fabii. The struggle went on through another winter, and after numerous less important engagements they at length succeeded by stratagem. Choosing a plain so surrounded by covert as to admit of an ambush for a large force, they turned cattle out to feed apparently unwatched. The Fabii descended into the plain and began driving off the cattle. Then the Veientines rose from their ambush and slew them to a man. The one boy who survived of the whole clan was destined to be the

They fortify themselves on a hill in the Veientine territory.

The Fabii fall into an ambush, 477.

Expedition of the Fabii, 479.

-79-

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