Ars Bellica

Battles In Brief

Battle of Velletri

487 or 485 B.C.

The opponents

Tito Sicinius

Titus Siccius was a Roman Republican politician, who lived in the fifth century BC and perhaps descending from the branch of a patrician gens otherwise plebeian: the Sicinia gens. He was appointed as consul of Rome in 487 BC, together with Gaius Aquilio.

The gens Sicinia is traditionally recognized as a plebeian, though it also had a patrician branch to which it is likely belonged Tito Sicinius. He is the only member of his gens to rise to the position of Consul of Rome. Although the other known members of this gens, almost all plebeians, were never able to rise to the consulate, many became, later, the protagonists of the patrician-plebeian struggles that have dominated the political scene during the mid-late period of the Roman Republic.

Tito Sicinius, together with his colleague Gaius Aquilio, was commissioned to start a military offensive against the Volsci, against which he obtained the victory in the battle of Velletri and for which he received the honor of triumph. In 480 B.C. Tito Sicinius was then appointed as legate under the command of the consul Marcus Fabius Vibulano.

Attio Tullio ( ... - Velletri, 487 or 485 B.C. )

Leader of the Volscians, he welcomed Cneo Marcio Coriolanus, exiled from Rome for having insulted the tribunes of the people, and with him organized a military campaign in which many volsci territories conquered by the Romans in preceding years were quickly taken back. But when Coriolanus persuaded by his mother, end the siege of Rome, Attio, relying on the resentment of the Volscians, who felt betrayed by the decision of Coriolanus, in their hope of defeating Rome, made a conspiracy that led to the death of Coriolanus, while it was in the Anzio Forum, to defend its decision.

Always with the idea of defeating the Romans, Attio tried again to attack Rome, few time later the funeral of Coriolanus, joining a Volsci army with an Equi one. But, before even get in contact with the enemy, between the two "allied" peoples was born even a dispute over who should have the honor of the first attack. The dispute generate a scrum between the Allied nations that turned into open conflict not ended in the massacre of both armies just for the onset of night. The next morning, the two armies now former-allies returned to their respective homes. Once again the plans of Attio Tullio were blurred.

Yet, in 485 BC, he attempted once again his fate against the forces of Rome. The Battle of Velletri will see him protagonist as commander of the army of the Volscians, but defeated by the legionaries of the consul Titus Sicinius will lose his life on the battlefield.

The genesis

From the very beginnings of the City, the Volscians were among the italic people that tried more vehemently to destroy the power of Rome. Repeatedly fought pitched battles with the Roman army, the volsci developed a strong resentment against the Romans, such as to create in them the desire to go to war against the powerful neighbor despite his power would increase exponentially. Example rooted hatred was one of the most famous exponents of their nobility: Attio Tullius. After having tried in the open field, to find success against the legions, he decided to host the exiled Coriolanus to exploit it in his attempt to destroy the Urbe. Despite an initial apparent success, the Volscians had to withdraw due to the opposition to continue the siege of Rome by the same Coriolanus. Tullio, once freed of Coriolanus with a conspiracy, attempted an alliance with the Equi. But a dispute between the allies made ??not possible clash with the Romans so Tullio had to return back to its city, Antium.

In Rome, it was clear that the Volscians had become a very important problem, and have to be solved as soon as possible, so in 485 BC, two consuls were appointed with very specific tasks: they were Aquilio Caius, who had to get rid of Ernici and Tito Siccius, massif holder of the expedition against the Volscians. The army of Rome was first divided into three parts, one each to the consuls, and a third dedicated to patrolling the surrounding areas Urbe.

Immediately after receiving the assignment, Tito went with the given part of the army in direction of Velletri.

The forces on the field

To Tito was given the most powerful army, because, as told by Dionysius of Halicarnassus , «was flourishing with warriors Azzio Tullo, the Volsci leader, as Marcio before when the war was stopped, with the plan of infest the lands of the roman allies, on the concept that also in Rome have to be felt the same fear». Considering this, we can assume a force of just over 6,000 legionnaires with more than 300 knights.

But the same passage of Dionysius informs us that the army of the Italic was no exception. Even the Volscians then rallied a force numerically equal to the Romans in the field, but not limited to the numbers: «[...] because the infantry of both looked a lot like number, in arms, in battle order, and expertise of men in the fight».

The battle

As soon as the respective enemy was spotted, the two armies attacked simultaneously. The site of the battle was hilly , rocky , generally not suitable for cavalry of both armies. Thus, some representatives memebers of the cavalry went to confer with the consul Titus Sicinius, asking him to fight on foot: «so the consul, widely thanks them, let them disount from their horses and were deploy with him to explore, and rescue those who where in trouble». This move was the key of the Roman victory in Velletri.

In fact, as already mentioned above, the infantry came in contact with a balance in numerically, armament , but also for quality terms, beacuse: «expertise in the fight, advancing or retreating , offensively or defensively, were the Volscians, for what they have learned from the period when Marcio was their captain; he passed the roman arts of war to those».

Thus the battle seemed to not have one of the two contenders able to take the upper hand over the other, as long as the departments of the Roman dismounted knights quickly moved on the flank of the enemies, attacking from the right side, «and others behind just by turning around the hill. So, someone hurled spears on the grouped enemies, while somoeone else, with very long swords wounded them in the arms, truncating many hands and who many, firmly standings in their places, overturned the already wounded enemies with deep strokes in the knees».

The right side of the line of the Volscians found itself in a critical situation: hit on the the and partly on the rear by the enemy's cavalry, had to simultaneously deal with the Roman legionaries from the front, without being able to count on the support of his cavalry , which, not dismounted , moved with difficulty and therefore could not support them effectively. Despite their fate had already be decided the components of the right side of the Volscians did not surrender, but in the end they were all killed. Looking at the fall of their own right and the Roman cavalry that was about to attack them, the center and the left of the Italic army began a gradual retreat to its own camp.

The Romans, however, did not give them mercy: pursued the enemy back to their camp where «arose a fierce battle, because the tried to ascend into several parts to their camp. Now, being the Romans "in labor", the consul commands the infantry to lead back many spoils and fill the pits, and he came forward [... ], with the more honourable knights, up to the gates of the tents, which were full of booty. The romans knights repel those who fought on the front, and broken the guards of the gates, as soon as they entered into the camp they were rejoined by their infantry that followed them. Thereupon Attio Tullio attacked them with the stronger and bolder remaining Volsci, opposing a very honorable resistance, in fact he was a good fighter, though unfit for command, but finally overcome by fatigue and wounds, died. The other Volsci [...] or resisted and died, or drop down their arms, and resorted to the mercy of the victor: considering that only a few had succeed in their escape to their own houses».

The aftermath

The victory over the Volsci at Velletri was not decisive in the multi-year battle between the Roman and Italic. It was, however, a very important opportunity to let understand the enemy the quality Roman military, and their determination on the field. On the other hand also volsci proved, even after the defeat of Velletri, very resolute in their desire of not to give anything to the Capitoline. But their morale, considering the latter defeat, the severe loss of Attio Tullio and also the failure of his previous anti-Roman campaign with Coroliano, was not at the apex.

Meanwhile, Tito Sicinius, just back in the City, was honored with the triumph: «as soon as come in Rome the news about the victories, sent from the consuls, flooded lively joy in the people, and were decreed sacrifices to thank the gods. The glory of the triumph for the consuls, was not the same for both: the bigger one was for Siccio (Sicinius), which seemed to have freed the city from greater danger, destroying the army of the insolent Volscians, and killing the commander. Therefore, he entered in the city with his prey, prisioners, with the companions militias, surrounded by royal cloak, as was tradition in the most distinguished triumph, and sitting on the chariot pulled by adorned horses with gold brakes. Aquilio was granted of a minor celebration, not the triumph, called "Ovatio" [...]. He entered the city by foot leading the rest of his pump».