Etruscan, where have we heard the word before? Oh yeah, the army. Wasn’t the Roman army modeled on the Etruscan army or something? (maybe they forgot to give the Etruscans credit) Then you say, weren’t some of Rome’s kings Etruscan. Didn’t they lead armies against the Etruscans? Yes my dear friend you’re absolutely right. The Etruscans were everywhere (I’ll do an article about the Etruscan impact on Rome one day). Romulus, Tullius Hostilius, Servius Tullius and Lucius Tarquinious Superbus all led battles against the Etruscans. So before we talk about these age-old Roman enemies, second only to the Sabines who were unfortunate enough to supply women to Rome, let’s talk about Etruria.
Etruria was a region in Central Italy covering what we call today Tuscany, Umbria and Lazio. The ancient people of Etruria were called Etruscans (I would have preferred Etrurians because that obviously makes more sense) and before Rome came up and basically declared itself most important, Etruscans were one of the most dominant cultures in Italy. Some say they were actually one of the first civilizations to pop up in the Iron Age Italy. I’m not going to tell you everything that the Etruscans brought to Rome but here are some of the most important ones- the twelve Olympian gods, growing olives and grapes (they basically brought pizza essentials to Rome), the Latin alphabet etcetera-etcetera.
(I’m going to skip the Etruscan wars during the reign of the kings of Rome because I don’t have enough primary sources. So FASTFORWARD TO THE EARLY REPUBLIC. There was also possibly a war with the Sabines in 505-504 BC which had nothing to do with the Etruscans but all I know is that the consul of that year celebrated a triumph in the jolly month of May.)
War Part 1- The Fabian War (483 BC – 476 BC)
Between the years 483 BC and 476 BC, the Veientes (you know what, don’t even bother to pronounce it in your head) or simply people of Veii waged a war against Rome with auxiliaries from the Etruscans succoring them. The war is called Fabian because the Roman gens or family Fabia was involved in it (don’t ask all you need to know is that it was a feud of sorts and the family probably hated Veii). Rome won. Of course. As if anything else was even on the table.
I’m going to give you Livy’s version of what happened.
Year 1: The Romans couldn’t care less. They had more important matters to take care of which were internal in nature and I mean, they were the Romans, they were strong (they thought so at least).
Year 2: The Veientine army entered Roman territory and started pillaging and basically devastating the countryside. Then they got a little overconfident and threated to lay siege to Rome the next year. This was a BIG no-no.
Year 3: Spurius Furius Medullinus gets the command of the Roman Army with orders to act with aggression and thennnnnnnnnnn… nothing happens.
Year 4: Rome was simmering with dissent and dissatisfaction, which meant to the Veientes that it was going to be an easy target. They were supported by troops from other Etruscan cities. Okay so the consuls that year were… chivalrous. Marcus Fabius Vibulanus and Gnaeus Manlius Cincinnatus knew from experience that undisciplined soldiers were simply not worth their time so they abstained from fighting till the last moment. They actually avoided battle (that’s rare). They fought bravely and selflessly. To put it mildly, Marcus Fabius Vibulanus fought like a war-machine after his brother Quintus Fabius was killed in action. He also saved the day when Manlius got brutally injured leading the opposite wing of the army and his soldiers began to retreat. Marcus Fabius arrived to literally prevent their slaughter.
The Etruscans decided to make most of this distraction in enemy lines and attacked the Roman camp, breaching their defenses. The Romans surrounded the Etruscans, Manlius’s men covering all the exits to the camp. The Etruscans panicked and desperate to escape, the attacked the consul’s position, mortally wounding Manlius. The Romans who were equally quick to panic would’ve been crushed had it not been for our very own WAR-MACHINE. Fabius caught them as they were fleeing and obliterated their force.
But our tragic hero, Fabius suffered great personal setbacks in the form of the loss of his brother and co-consul. So, even though he had brought great victory to his land, he refused to celebrate triumph (that was a BIG deal).
Year 5: This year, a fresh new face enters the game. Consul Titus Verinius Tricostus Rutilus (pfff) got war duty as his co-consul Kaeso Fabius dealt with an incursion by the Aequi. Verginius was stupid. He almost cost Rome the battle by almost cutting off his army but like the WAR-MARCHINE handling his colleague’s messes, Kaeso Fabius saved him by arriving at just the right time with his army.
This was also the year, the Romans got themselves sponsors for the war. The Fabii volunteered in the Senate to selflessly bear all financial and military burdens of the war with Veii for revenge and the public spotlight (which they most definitely got) of course. 306 armed men, the Fabii plus the consul, marched through and out of Rome and set up camp at the Cremera and fortified a post.
Year 6: The Fabii get their revenge and they ravage Veii territory. The Veientes seek vendetta by calling up an Etruscan army and attacking the Fabian post at the Cremera.
Lucius Aemilius Mamercus (so many useless names you’ll never hear again…oh the throes of history) the consul, came and ended the siege when the Roman cavalry forced the Veientine army to retreat. The Veientes actually sued for peace after this (phew… this war exhausted me like I was fighting it myself).
Year 7 (I purposely made that sad bracket-moji to make you feel my pain.)
The hostilities began again (what a wow) the fighting increased, with raids by the Fabii into Veientine territory, and vice versa. The Veientes decided to ambush the Romans, causing the Battle of the Cremera, dated 18 July 477 BC (probably), in which the Veientes surprised us all by emerging victorious and killing all (ALL) the Fabii. Only Quintus Fabius Vibulanus survived because he was too young to go to war and therefore stayed at Rome.
Shocked (because how could THAT happen), the Senate sent consul Titus Menenius Lanatus to finally end this godforsaken war for me, I mean for the glory of Rome and to avenge the fallen Romans, but they were defeated (what is up with these Veientes, did they drink magic juice or something?).
The Veientes marched on Rome, and took the Janiculum. The Roman senate recalled the other consul Gaius Horatius Pulvillus from the Volsci. There were two inconclusive battles, the first near the temple of Spes and the second at the Colline gate. The Veientes left Rome and set about ravaging the countryside (when has that ever worked for anyone), until the Romans defeated them the following year.
War Part 2- Veii-Sabine alliance (475 BC – 474 BC)
Oh Veii, why don’t you know to just give up already!? Our villains (JK there are no villains or heroes in war, every man is as bad as he who is next to him) the Veientes are back for another round of humiliating defeat! This time with the Sabines! In 475 BC the Veientes formed an alliance with the Sabines and started poking the sleeping beast, Rome, only a year after the defeat of Veii in the previous war (because they probably had a death wish).
This time, Rome had allies too. With the Latins and the Hernici auxiliaries augmenting his army, consul Publius Valerius Poplicola led the Romans to war. The Sabine army was camped outside the walls of Veii. The Romans quickly took the gate of the Sabine camp despite the Sabines rushing to meet them outside the camp. While this was happening, Veientine forces attacked the city itself though it seems that they weren’t very good at it because a Roman cavalry united intercepted them and pretty much won.
Next year, the consul Gnaeus Manlius Vulso was assigned the war. Luckily the Veienties were smart enough to not lose for a third time (against Rome even third time isn’t a charm) and sued for peace. The Romans accepted and the Veientes agreed to a truce with Rome for forty years and gave a tribute of corn and money.
I would say that this was the last time the Etruscans and the Romans fought but then I’d be lying. The Romans would not rest until they entirely swallow the Etruscans. And I will not rest until I tell you all about it.