Ars Bellica

Battles In Brief

Battle of Lake Regillus

499 or 496 BC

The Opponens

Aulus Postumius Albus Regillensis

Roman commander. He was appointed Dictator for a period of six months, in which (in 499 or 496 BC), fought and won against the Latin League at the Battle of Lake Regillus, acquiring the triumph. He dedicated the victory to “Cerere, Libero and Libera” the temple at the foot of the Aventine, near the Circus Maximus. In addition, in the same year of the victory of Lake Regillus, he was appointed to the office of consul with Titus Verginius Tricostus Caelimontanus.

Titus Aebutius Elva

Consul and Roman magister equitum. He was elected to the consulate in the same period of Caius Vetusio. During their consulate, Fidenae was besieged and Crustumerium conquered. Praeneste passed from the Latins to the Romans and was no longer possible to postpone a war with the Latins, after years of hesitation. Aulus Postumius was thus elected dictator, and Titus Aebutius, magister equitum. They set off with a massive deployment of infantry and cavalry, and met the enemy at the lake Regillus, in the territory of Tusculum. According to Livius, during the battle Aebutius clashed directly with Octavius Mamilius and were both wounded, Aebutius at the arm and Mamilius in the chest. Aebutius retired wounded at the rear.

Tarquinius Superbus ( ? - 495 a.C.)

The last of the seven kings of Rome. According to Livius, he would have taken possession of power after killing Servius Tullius and should probably have put the nickname of 'Superb' for the many atrocities committed, starting with the prohibition of bury his predecessor, of which he was son-in-law, and the killing of elders that he suspected friends of Servius. As he did Rome grow with both the arts of diplomacy, both with some victorious wars, the period of his reign was proverbially tied to the idea of terror. The outrage made by his son, Sextus Tarquinius, to Lucretia - the virtuous wife of his cousin Tarquinius Collatinus, which "escaped" the shame with suicide - had as a result the uprising of the people, under the leadership of Collatinus and Lucius Junius Brutus. Decreed by the multitude the abolition of the monarchy and the establishment of the republic, Tarquinius took refuge before at Tusculum, then with their children to Caere in Etruria. The old king did not give up, and tried to restore his kingdom with the help of Porsenna, king of Clusium, with whom he allied himself, and with the support of the Latin cities opponents of Rome. Tarquinius defeated in the Battle of Lake Regillus died in exile at Cumae in 495 BC.

Octavius Mamilius ( ? - 496 a.C.)

Latin commander of the fifth century BC, was prince of the Latin city of Tusculum and ally of Tarquinius Superbus where he became a son-in-law. "To Tusculum Octavius Mamilius - the most representative among the Latins, and if we believe in the legend, a descendant of Ulysses and the goddess Circe - [Tarquinius Superbus] gave his daughter as a wife and thanks to this marriage, was linked with many of his friends and his relatives." This bond of kinship and alliance led him to support Tarquinius in the Battle of Lake Regillus against the Romans. Mamilius was killed in battle by the Roman legate Titus Herminius Aquilinus while, with his reserve soldiers, tried to bring relief to Tarquinius Superbus, in trouble under the attacks of Postumius.

The genesis

The expulsion of Tarquinius Superbus from the city of Rome was one of the turning points in the history of the City. In Rome, the time of the kings was over and began the republic. Therefore, once Porsenna, the Etruscan king of Clusium, instigated by Tarquinius himself, sought to restore the power of the Tarquins in the City, the Senate decided to open the doors to their enemies (who was Porsenna so far) rather than to the former king. This was the unanimous vote of all, the end of freedom would have been the end of Rome. Seeing the senators, who were presented as an embassy to Rome, adamant about these positions, the Etruscan king decided to desist from starting a new, dangerous, conflict with the Romans and no more deceive the Tarquins with the hope of aid that he could not guarantee him. So, he denied asylum to Tarquinius Superbus so that nothing could disrupt his relationship with the city. In addition, he freed the last Roman hostages in its possession and the territory of Veius had a follow-up to the treaty on the Janiculum.

So while Porsenna did everything to avoid a clash with Rome, Tarquinius lost all hope of being able to restore his power with the help of the king, then withdrew into exile in Tusculum, at his son-in-law Octavius Mamilius. Mamilius succeeded in fomenting hatred of thirty Latin cities which under his leadership formed an alloy according to anti-Roman. The general tension due to these gloomy news brought to suggest for the first time the appointment of a dictator. About the year and the name of the consuls appointed to this position there is no agreement between the sources. However, most of the ancient historians speak of as the first dictator Titus Lartius and Spurius Cassius as magister equitum. The dictator could, in the short term, to agree to a truce against the Sabines, with which the Romans were already in war, so that they can concentrate forces against the Latins, but not only. Tarquinius was able to get the support of the Etruscan cities of Tarquinia and Veius. In Tarquinia, unlike what happened in Clusium, the name and relationship of Tarquinius took hold, attracted them the idea that one of their reign in Rome. So the two cities with the two armies followed Tarquinius with the intent to win back the kingdom for him and to take revenge militarily of Romans. Despite the uncertain performance of the battle, Tarquinius and the Etruscans were taken from a panic that left the enterprise without bringing it to fruition, and during the night, both armies of Veius and Tarquinia returned to their countries.

At this point, the last chance to Tarquinius was the Latin League. But already during the consulship of Titus Aebutius and Caius Vetusio Fidenae was besieged and Crustumerium conquered; Praeneste also passed by the Latins to the Romans. It was clear that it was no longer possible to postpone a war with the Latins, after years of hesitation. In addition, the news of the presence of Tarquinius among the ranks of Latin aroused such indignation in Romans that they can not further postpone the clash.

The deployments

Regarding the deployment of forces on the field we have to leave for a moment the news of Titus Livius, who did not inform us about it, and rely on the data provided to us by Dionysius of Halicarnassus, in his "Roman Antiquities" with the translation of Marco Mastrofini: «Sextus Tarquinius was posted on the left wing of the Latins and Octavius Mamilius on the right; Titus, the other son of Tarquinius, held the centre, where also the Roman deserters and exiles were posted. And, all their horse being divided into three bodies, two of these were placed on the wings and one in the centre of the battle-line. The left of the Roman army was commanded by Titus Aebutius, the Master of the Horse, who stood opposite to Octavius Mamilius; the right by Titus Verginius, the consul, facing Sextus Tarquinius; the centre of the line was commanded by the dictator Postumius in person, who proposed to encounter Titus Tarquinius and the exiles with him». Dionysius does not inform us in detail about the exact positioning of the Roman cavalry, which will, as we will see a major role in the course of the battle. Probably, according to the Roman military costume, the knights were on the wings, leaving to the infantry the center of the field.

The forces on the field

Using the same text, Dionysius informs us, in a totally arbitrary way: «The whole of the militia came to fight were twenty-four thousand infantry and three thousand horsemen in the Roman field and forty thousand infantry and three thousand horsemen in the Latin field».

The battle

The battle was unprecedented in terms of ferocity and tenacity. In fact, the commanders were not limited to direct operations, but threw themselves in person into the fray and almost no members of the two commands, except the Roman dictator, went out unscathed from the collision. Postumius was at the forefront to lead and encourage his men, when Tarquinius Superbus, despite his age and the physical weakened, charged against him, but he remedied a wound in his side and was able to escape only thanks to the timely intervention of his men. At the opposite wing of the formation, Aebutius, attacked Octavius Mamilius. The maneuver was not, however, escaped the commander of Tusculum, who, in turn, launched himself at a charge against him. The impact of their spears was so violent that Aebutius was wounded in the arm and Mamilius was shot in the chest. The Latins covered him bringing in the second line, while Aebutius, with his arm in that state was no longer able to fight, then left the battlefield. The commander Latin, absolutely heedless of the wound, trying to rekindle the conflict and, noting a failure of his own, did intervene battalion of Romans exiles led by a son of Lucius Tarquinius. Their fury, doubled by indignation for loss of assets, was able for a moment to rectify the situation.

While the Romans on that side were already in full retreat, Marcus Valerius, brother of Publicola, saw that the young Lucius Tarquinius was exposed in the front rows of the exiles; Marcus Valerius inflamed by the glory that covered his family, and thinking that would give him the honor to be not only the man who had driven out the kings, but also the one who had killed them, spurred his horse, and with a spear, pounced on Tarquinius that, to avoid the charge frenetic opponent, retired among the companions. While Valerius was bearing down headlong against the battalion of the exiles, one of them hit him on the side piercing through from side to side. When the dictator Postumius realized a similar loss and saw that the exiles were loading with an unprecedented fury as his began to lose ground, ordered his bodyguard to kill anyone who had seen fleeing. With this threat friend, the Romans abandoned all thoughts of escape and focusing only on the enemy, brought it back into the battle. The "cohort" of the dictator only then entered into the heart of the fray. It, with the strength and morale intact, attacked the exiles now exhausted and massacred them.

At that moment there was another clash between captains. the Latin commander, seeing that the battalion of the exiles was going to be surrounded by the Roman dictator, took with him some men of the reserve and moved to the forefront. Titus Erminius, second in command, saw them coming and recognized in their midst Mamilius, unmistakable for the clothes and the weapons that he had. So Erminius attacked the general with much more force than the magister equitum had not done before, and killed him with one shot piercing through from side to side but at the moment that was undressing the corpse of his opponent, he was struck by an rod enemy. Transported to field as a winner, died while they were given first aid. Then the dictator, seeing that the infantry were exhausted, ran in the direction of the knights and invites them to dismount and join the fray. The knights obey at the order jumped to the ground, rushed to the front line and repair the forerunners with their shields. The moral of the soldiers, seeing that even the young Roman nobles fought alongside them and shared risks, went up immediately. Only then the brunt of the Latins was controlled and their line of battle was split losing ground. The knights remounted riding off in pursuit of the enemy. The infantry followed.

It is said that the dictator, not to overlook any human or divine help, dedicated a temple to Castor and promised prizes to the first two soldiers who had entered the enemy camp.The Romans, so encouraged, threw themselves with such ardor that with a single attack gave a crushing defeat to the enemy and he conquered the field. The dictator and magister equitum returned to Rome for their triumph.

The aftermath

The years after the Battle of Lake Regillus were characterized by a period of stagnation. Were appointed as consuls Quintus Cloelius and Titus Lartius, then Aulus Sempronius and Marcus Minucius. But the change of the consuls did not generate any problems for the City: the Latin League had been hit too hard in order to organize again against the Romans. In addition, in the year in which they were appointed consuls Appius Claudius and Publius Servilius (495 BC), arrived In Rome the news of the death of Tarquinius. Tarquinius died at Cumae, at the court of the tyrant Aristodemus, who had welcomed him after the defeat of the forces in Latin. The Latins had to accept the supremacy of Rome.


Translated by Lorena Tarana